A struggling economy is obviously a big problem for restaurants, especially expensive, formal, old-school fine-dining outposts. But New York’s Le Cirque—possibly the patron saint of that kind of restaurant—is looking to address the problem in an unconventional way: by raising prices, at least during peak hours.
“We're borrowing something the airlines and hotels have done for many years,” Carlo Mantica, CEO of the Maccioni Group, which owns the 38-year-old restaurant, said to CNBC. Of course, Le Cirque is already famously expensive, as Pete Wells noted often in his one-star New York Times review last month. But Mantica said the flexible pricing model was about keeping the restaurant full and exploring out-of-the-box options.
"Of course the economy is important. We're conscious of that. But during periods of challenges, you have to be proactive and try something new," he said.
The restaurant could also take a page from the early bird discount, charging customers lower prices at less desirable eating times, Mantica said.
Other restaurants, including Grant Achatz’s Next in Chicago, have implemented flexible pricing models, and the trend is not likely to abate any time soon.
“In the next decade, it will make perfect sense for some restaurants to adjust pricing by not only time of day, but day of week, even season of the year,” the National Restaurant Association’s Hudson Riehle told CNBC.